Server Build

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Server Build Program at Free Geek


The Program

Server Build evaluates and builds, well, servers. Servers are computers that tend to have higher quality parts, hot-swappable power supplies, hot swappable hard drives, or fit into server racks.

Class Times

  • Wednesdays 10AM - 1:45PM


The Server Build program requires a great deal of PC hardware experience, so it is expected that all students have gone through the Build program before moving into the Server Build program.

Server Evaluation: Determine basic specs such as processor(s) type and speed, hard drive bays, RAM type, etc.

Server Build: Build out systems that meet criteria for use in infrastructure, hardware grants or the thrift store.

Server Quality Control: Ensure that systems already built can read CDs, USB ports work, boot fine, etc.

In addition, there are some tasks that can be done throughout your time in the project:

  • RAM Sorting
  • Shelf Organizing

Server Evaluation

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Boot Without Keyboard
Just make sure it attempts to boot; no need to install a hard drive during Eval.
Auto-Reboot After Power-Loss
Will the system reboot all by itself after a power-loss when the system was running before the power-loss (required)? Will the system stay off after a power-loss when the system was not running before the power-loss (optional)?

Server Build Checklist


Check for blown caps - Examine all of the capacitors
Check battery - Confirm that the CMOS battery is at least 3 volts
Boot Process - Ensure that the server boots properly in the following ways:

  • Boots from CD - use an Ubuntu Live CD, leave Ubuntu running for next step
  • Boots automatically after power loss - while still in Ubuntu from the previous step, unplug all power cords (and the keyboard for the next step) from the server to simulate a sudden power loss. It should reboot automatically - if not, check BIOS settings.
  • Boots without keyboard - the server may report a "Keyboard failure" error - this is okay as long it boots successfully without human intervention, such as "press key X to continue..."

RAID & LVM Setup (Build ONLY)

Install Debian Wheezy - Boot to network and install Debian Wheezy to local disks, choose hostname, leave domain name as “fglan”

Setup Software RAID

Partition Disks:

  • Create small partition (400-500M) on each device
    • primary partition at the beginning of the drive
    • use as “physical volume for RAID”
    • set as bootable
  • Create large partition (all remaining space) on each device
    • primary, not bootable

Setup RAID for small partitions: RAID1 (bootable) with the number of devices equal to number of disks
Setup RAID for large partitions:

  • For 2-3 disks:Setup RAID1, with number of devices equal to number of disks
  • For 4+ disks:Setup RAID6, with number of devices equal to number of disks

Configure LVM - configure larger RAID1 or RAID6 array as LVM volume

Diagnostics & Databases

  • Boot from local disk(s)
  • Test USB ports (front and back),
  • Test video ports (front and back),
  • Test network ports - at terminal: ifconfig eth0 up, ifconfig eth1 up, then tail -f /var/log/syslog, and when you plug and unplug the ethernet cable, you should see reasonable printouts. Ctrl-C to stop the tail command.

    • QC Only: Remove any SATA/SAS drives and give them to your Instructor

Run printme:

  • Boot from network
    • Select printme from the network boot menu
    • Log in as guest
    • Open a terminal
    • Run printme
    • Answer all questions and record anything else noteworthy in the notes section

Fill out the Server Specs sticker based on whether you are doing Build or QC:

  • For BUILD:
    • Put System ID on server specs sticker
    • Number of physical processors and number of cores per processor
    • Processor speed (GHz)
    • Circle processor type (Xeon, Opteron, Core 2, Other)
    • Total amount of included RAM
    • Total number of RAM slots on board
    • Number of included RAM sticks with their speed and size
    • Circle type of RAM (DDR, DDR2, DDR3)
    • Circle type of DIMM (ECC, FB-DIMM, etc.)
    • Number of hard drive bays
    • Circle hard drive bay type (IDE, SCSI, SATA, SAS)
    • Number and size of included hard drives
    • Record anything notable, like Hardware RAID support, in the notes section
    • Do not print! Instead, put your Volunteer ID on a piece of tape on the system

  • For QC:
    • Confirm the accuracy of information already on the Server Specs sticker
    • Number and size of included hard drives
    • Circle whether an OS is installed (none if hard drives removed!)
    • Write the System ID# on a Server Tag sticker (small labels marked S1, S2, etc.) and stick it to the front of the chassis.
    • Print the printme - Write the number from the Server Tag in the upper right-hand corner of the printme, and give it to your instructor.

  • Move the system to the Server Build KVM and run Memtest, if it hasn't already been done.
  • Consult your Instructor for a new project!


Labels we use in the build and QC process:


Here are the HOW-TOs and information we need to accomplish our tasks.


These are mostly pages full of links to other place:


  • syllabus, repair howto(s) & triage charts, wiki, RAID howto,